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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Sanderling

Dec 14, 2017 07:36AM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the “Bird of the Week”.  This week’s bird is the “Sanderling (Calidris alba)”.  The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird. 

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography

 “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the “Sanderling 

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Sanderling (Calidris alba).Sanderlings are small, plump sandpipers with a stout bill about the same length as the head. The Sanderling’s black legs blur 

 as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits. Learn this species, and you’ll have an aid in sorting out less common shorebirds. These extreme long-distance migrants breed only on High Arctic tundra, but during the winter they live on most of the sandy beaches of the world.

You’ll most often see Sanderlings in nonbreeding plumage, when they are very pale overall: light gray above and white below, with a blackish mark at the shoulder. In spring and summer, Sanderlings are spangled black, white, and rich rufous on the head, neck, and back. At all times, their legs and bills are black. In flight, white wingstripes contrast with dark wings.


Sanderlings breed on the High Arctic tundra and migrate south in fall to become one of the most common birds along beaches. They gather in loose flocks to probe the sand of wave-washed beaches for marine invertebrates, running back and forth in a perpetual “wave chase.” During migration and winter, they forage on beaches but will also use mudflats. Sanderlings nest in the High Arctic on gravel patches and low-growing, wet tundra.

Males call with croaking, frog-like trills before and during breeding display flights. Females signal their willingness to mate with a series of low buzzing notes that sound like a typewriter in motion. Adults of both sexes perform distraction displays, including snarls and cries, to lure 

 predators away from the nest. Outside the breeding season, Sanderlings twitter in large flocks, each giving a series of soft, squeaky wick wicknotes.

This tiny bird is one of my favorites. I love to see them dodging waves on the beaches of Imperial Beach as they forage for food. Look for these cute little birds while enjoying a walk on our great beaches.  

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week             



Bryan Brillhart



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